Some thoughts on Reform UK’s first party conference

As I had planned, I attended the Reform Party UK’s first ever party conference on Sunday, October 3rd, 2021 in Manchester. This report gives some thoughts I took away from it.

I will say at the outset that I do not by my nature support any political party. In fact, I often say (only half in jest) that I would like to see politics made a capital offence. Retrospectively. I was there, not as one of the party faithful, but as an interested and friendly outsider, wanting to learn as much as possible about where the party was planning to go.

The hall capacity was a little under 400. Where I was, towards the front, it was about three-quarters full. This was a small meeting, compared to the two major Brexit Party events to which I went in 2019. And the demographics were different. Whereas at the Brexit Party’s event at the NEC in Birmingham I had seen all age ranges from 30 to 70 about equally represented, here the audience was almost entirely aged over 50. And while there had been quite a few black faces in the audience in Birmingham, here there were very few; and one of them was a speaker! But, I’m pleased to say, I saw only one participant wearing a face mask.

The occasion lacked the sense of energy and excitement, which the Brexit Party events in both Birmingham and Maidstone had engendered. Perhaps this was inevitable, given that this event marked the public start of a very long haul, which the party faces in order to gain sufficient support to make a difference.

We were welcomed by John Kelly, the party’s North area manager. He didn’t have time to say very much; but he did mention the still strong desire of some vested interests in government, notably the civil service, to go back into the EU. To which I would say, I reckon it’s far more than just the civil servants. So, we must guard still against Rejoiner scheming. The Battle of Brexit may have been won; but the campaign is still ongoing, and the war as a whole is hardly even started.

Next up was Nick Buckley MBE, the party’s candidate in the recent Manchester mayoral election. He spoke of the role of Manchester in the Industrial Revolution. Of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, which took place just a few hundred metres away. And of the first meeting of the TUC, which took place in Manchester. (Though he made it plain that trade unions today no longer put the rights of the workers first). He spoke of removing “a mountain of bureaucracy,” and of the party’s aims to “convince people that a better model exists” and “to inspire the voters.” I thought his speech was excellent given the time constraints. Just the kind of precedents I approve of; anti-establishment movements to make life better for the “little people”. And just the kind of things I, for one, want the party to be doing.

Then we had Alan Graves, a former Labour councillor in Derby who defected to UKIP in 2014, and has now come across to the Reform party. He and his team have been very successful in local elections there, so that there are now 6 Reform councillors in Derby out of a total of 51. He was supported by his son, Alan Graves Junior, who showed signs of a potential to become a very good speaker. The background and attitudes of this pair surely give the lie to the view, put forward by a leftist friend of mine, that the Reform Party are nothing but “right-wing nutcases.”

Next came Cai Dewar from Wales. He is a Pentecostal bishop; and he’s certainly a preacher-man! He spoke of “everyday people who are ready for reform” and “a completely new direction of prosperity for all of our people.” He described Welsh Labour as being “out of touch with anything outside the Cardiff Bay bubble.” He slammed them as showing “no care for us as a people” and “no concern for us or our way of life” (particularly on lockdowns), and having “not listened to us at all.” They have “put Wales on a road map to destruction,” and they “blame everyone else for their own failings.” What is needed is “fresh common-sense ideas that work for the people.” And in particular, re-vitalizing the economy and encouraging small businesses. His closing line was: “Good government focuses on the people, not on driving them down into poverty.” It was all a little bit over the top; but I have no doubt of Cai Dewar’s ability to inspire people to get involved and to seek better things.

The final speaker of the first session was the party’s deputy leader, Dr David Bull. Here, for the first time, there surfaced a kind of nationalism with which I am not very comfortable. He started with “We believe in Britain” and talk of “our great country,” where I would have talked about “British values” (the values of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution) and “the great people who live in this country.” Still, I enjoyed his description of Theresa May as “that bloody difficult woman” and his castigation of the Tories because they “never thanked us.” He spoke of a “seismic political movement, and you can feel it.” He’s quite right; but I didn’t feel a metaphorical movement of the earth nearly as strongly in that hall as I had at the Brexit party events, particularly in Maidstone. He reported that the polls were showing Reform support at about 6% – not far behind the Greens – and that was without having announced a single policy yet.

Most importantly for me, he said: “We are a bottom-up party. We take ideas from our members.” That is something which distinguished the Brexit Party from all the rest. And if it is carrying over into the Reform party, that’s all to the good.

The first speaker in the second session was Dominique Samuels on “A young person’s perspective.” She said she is looking for “truth, common sense and freedom.” So am I, lady, so am I! And she said “The media don’t have the best interests of people at heart.” Absolutely spot on, again. Having only just left university, she was well placed to tell us about the despair that students have been feeling, and the problems they have suffered, as a result of the COVID measures. And she concluded with “Stop voting for the least worst!” She exited to a standing ovation, which she thoroughly deserved.

Next came the party’s chief executive and the organizer of the conference, Paul Oakden. He slammed the current political system, saying that it “ignores the will of the majority, and puts all power into the hands of the few.” Too true, I say; and not only all the power, but virtually all the wealth too. He looks for “a better, bolder, braver Britain.” He gave some news on changes to the membership structure, and told us of the party’s target to contest every seat in England and Wales at the next general election, and many in Scotland. And he made an explicit commitment to the candidates: “We won’t stand anybody down.” But it was his final words of wisdom that stuck in my memory. “The state is the servant of the people, not the other way round.” You can’t hit a nail on the head better than that.

Next was Isabel Oakeshott, a political commentator who has been to more than 20 Tory conferences (and several Labour ones, to boot). Her presentation was a tour de force on the topic of – government lies. “Three weeks to flatten the curve.” “Vaccines are for adults only.” “There are no plans for vaccine passports.” The Tory government, she said, “distorts, dissembles and actively disinforms.” Habitually, I would add. Having promised to “level up” the country, they are not only failing to do that, but they also fail to “level with” the people. She summed up the Tories as “dishonest, incompetent and cruel,” and undemocratic, too.

She had built up her case gently, but inexorably. There had to be something special to come at the end. And there was. “I will neither forget nor forgive any of this, and neither should you.” Amen, my lady! And then, her final thought: “But we mustn’t let it get us down.”

That brought to the podium party leader Richard Tice. I liked his metaphor of “a nation of lions and lionesses led by donkeys.” And the ideas that “our future and freedom are not the government’s to lend back to us” and that “we need big, bold, brilliant reforms.” Moreover, his soubriquet for the Tories, “con-socialists,” is not only apt, but has also had a degree of coverage in the media. I confess that I didn’t get much out of the policy part of his speech; probably because he stuck quite closely to the policy document the party issued back in May, which I had reviewed and critiqued less than three weeks earlier.

There were a few sentences towards the end on the subject of “climate change,” one of my particular bugaboos. He labelled the Tory policies as “nett stupid,” saying they were “delusional, not achievable, and will impoverish us all.” That’s all true; but his counter-proposal of doing things that are “achievable, affordable and proportionate” ignores the elephant in the room – the (strong) possibility that there is actually no substance at all to the accusation that human emissions of carbon dioxide have caused or will cause catastrophic global warming. I shall say more on that subject a little later.

At lunchtime I went out, and saw the party’s campaign bus parked outside, with its slogan “The Tory boiler ban will freeze your gran.” I’d have liked to add to that: “An electric car can’t take you far!” And my two perennial moans about renewables: “When the wind don’t blow, the power don’t flow” and “When the sun don’t shine, there’s no juice on the line.” But I digress.

First up after lunch was David Kirkwood from Scotland. He is an IT consultant like me, so we share the pain of having had our careers ruined by a bad tax law called IR35. This same bad law has recently been used to screw up the careers of tens of thousands of lorry drivers; not to mention to cause a national supply chain crisis. I therefore heartily endorse his view that “We must put HMRC back in their box.” But there’s much more going on in Scotland. Not only have the SNP already launched vaccine passports for events – a requirement which, in direct contradiction to the rule of law, will be waived for the VSIP’s (Very Self-Important People) attending the COP 26 climate alarmist gabfest in Glasgow next month. But their policies have also wrecked many owner-managed firms; a big issue, because there are no less than 340,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in Scotland.

But he had wider-ranging things to say, too. “Freedom is innate; governments can only curtail it.” Spot on, pal. Of the Reform party: “We don’t have the self-serving freeloaders that other parties have.” Long may that continue! And his concluding words: “Let’s go and get ’em.”

Next came Alex Wilson the recent by-election candidate from Chesham and Amersham, with two of his colleagues. They made three very good points. “We must reach the silent majority. We must walk, talk and promote Reform UK.” “It’s all about offering people choices they wouldn’t have had before.” And: “We must rescue our culture from the ‘woke’ brigade.”

Next up was Kirsty Walmsley, talking about education from the point of view of a parent. “Children are brainwashed,” she said, “with political ideologies that do not reflect the values of our society.” “The education system has been failing for decades.” And she made an interesting point that parents who were forced to home-school for a while because of COVID school closures didn’t have either the knowledge or the computer resources to do it properly.

Then we had Julian Malins QC, who had been the party’s candidate in Wiltshire for crime and police commissioner. He made a long list of policy proposals. Restoring the role of stipendiary magistrates (which New Labour abolished in 2000), appointing more of them, and giving them more powers. Reforming the criminal legal aid system. Specialist courts for motoring offences. Getting rid of “imprisonment for public protection” and indefinite sentences, so that all offenders who have been imprisoned on this basis receive fixed terms. Subjecting the Crown Prosecution Service to competition. Getting rid of over-complicated rules that prevent many civil trials from proceeding at all. More generally, self-governance should be restored to the professions as a whole. And the “English Inquisition” as he calls it, that prevents new lawyers getting positions in which they can be trained, must be abolished.

I know little of the detailed ins and outs of the justice system – two weeks in the jury box are my whole experience of it – but I have listened to enough “expert” speakers on different subjects to know a real expert when I hear one. The Reform Party needs experts like Julian Malins.

Next was Patrick Benham-Crosswell on energy and emissions policy – a subject on which I have some considerable knowledge. I’ll talk about his presentation at the end, because what the next speaker, Claire Fox, said was extremely relevant to the audience’s reaction to it.

I confess that I like Claire Fox. Despite her earlier Marxist leanings, she talks plenty of sense. Her elevation to the House of Lords, as an avowed supporter of abolishing that body, seems a bit odd to me; but I suppose it may have seemed better to be a “mole” inside (or, perhaps, even a Samson) than to be permanently outside.

Claire Fox spoke on the subject of Culture Wars. She explicitly introduced herself as a friend of the party, but not a part of it. She said: “Culture wars are unavoidable.” You will become embroiled in them “just by speaking truth to power.” “You will need free speech” – and you will need to fight for it. Many victims of the culture wars “get ostracized, or lose their jobs.” And then, her four keynote messages for the Reform party. One, “You must take on the cancel culture, and beat it.” Two, “Don’t do your own version of it. You mustn’t legitimize the cancel culture, for example by name-calling.” Three, “Your job is to win hearts and minds.” And four, “Don’t get angry, get even. When they go low, you go high.” I totally agree with all four (though it’s very hard not to get angry with what is being done to us). And her last sentence, to me, makes two separate and important points. One, never give up the moral high ground. And two, a boxer delivering a low blow becomes very vulnerable to a big shot to the head.

She provided two final gems. “The party must be open-minded and flexible.” And “The only way to change politics for good is to have ordinary people doing it.”

I skipped the final session, as I thought I had already learned enough to be able to write this missive; also, because the subjects to be discussed in it were things in which I either have little interest, or had already covered in my comments on the May policy document.

It remains for me to cover Patrick Benham-Crosswell’s presentation, and the reactions to it. He began by stating three objectives which must be met on energy policy: getting emissions down, keeping the lights on, and not breaking the economy. He didn’t specifically mention carbon dioxide – and that, to me, was a red flag already. For the label “emissions” covers two completely different things that the alarmists hype as big problems: “global warming” and air pollution. And they need to be treated as separate issues.

I can agree with the second and third of his objectives. But on the first, where is the cost-benefit case for reducing emissions in the first place? In the case of air pollution, there is a long and sordid history, all coming out of a study done in the USA back in the early 1990s. The study itself is dubious, and the UK’s rationale for adopting it as a guideline for policy (in 2009) is even more fraught with uncertainty. But as to carbon dioxide emissions, I can say with confidence that no proper cost-benefit analysis on anything involving carbon dioxide emissions can be done under current UK government rules. This is because, also in 2009, New Labour abandoned the use of the “social cost of carbon” for calculations involving carbon dioxide emissions. As I have written elsewhere: “Cynically paraphrased, their argument seems to have been: ‘We know we can’t do a credible cost-benefit analysis that justifies any political action on this. But we’re already committed to political action. So, we’ll make up numbers to match the commitments, and hope that no-one notices.’” I have already written on both these issues; the articles can be found via the links which I included with my recent response to the party’s May policy document.

The audacity and dishonesty of the conduct of all the main UK parties on environmental matters over the last 30 years beggars the mind. Isabel Oakeshott understated her case; the current Tory bunch are not the only ones that have been dishonest, cruel and undemocratic. They have all of them, however, been extremely competent – at screwing us all.

I was interested to see the man next to me shake his head vigorously when the speaker mentioned tidal power as an option. I was even more interested when, after Claire Fox had finished her speech and the session, I joined a conversation with two people sitting behind me. They, like me, had come to the conference to find out where the party was going. They, like me, were dissatisfied with Patrick Benham-Crosswell’s presentation. And they seemed to know what they were talking about. One of them even suggested that the Reform party might have failed to take a strong stance on the energy and emissions issue because of fear of repercussions from the cancel culture. It came into my mind then that Claire Fox’s remarks may have been intended as a friendly warning that the party must do what is right, rather than what may seem to be “popular” at the time. Which is exactly my own position. Any movement that compromises its principles – which for the Reform party, Dominique Samuels and I agree, should be truth, common sense and freedom – is dead as a force for good.

When I left the hall and joined the throng outside, the first conversation I came to was on exactly the same subject. I put in my sixpennyworth, as always. And one of the participants, a fellow Cambridge man about three years my junior, told me he had been in the energy industry for his entire career. As with Julian Malins, I can tell an expert when I hear one. I didn’t ask his name, which was a pity. He should have been speaking in place of Patrick Benham-Crosswell.

In my view, the Reform Party must grasp the “climate change” nettle; and it must grasp that nettle now, before COP 26 begins. The reactions of others I spoke to about the issue told me that I am by no means alone among Reform party supporters in such a view. It isn’t necessary, though, for the party to come out as full-blown climate skeptics on day one.

My suggested approach would be to institute what I call an “Audit of the Conduct of Environmental Politics in the UK.” I would like to see the Reform party commit to an independent, unbiased, objective audit on how the issues of “global warming” and pollution from vehicles have been dealt with in the UK. You might present it as “a second opinion from independent experts,” and say to those that oppose the idea, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” The purpose of this audit must be to:

1.         “drill down” to the hard evidence, identify what is known and what is not known,

2.         put the evidence, and the unknowns, into context so they tell the full story,

3.         get the truth out to the public – the ordinary people who are affected by these policies.

I presented this idea as my “policy pitch” at the Maidstone meeting of the Brexit party in 2019, and it was very well received by my listeners, including candidate Ahmad Malik, who coincidentally was the Brexit party candidate for the same seat that Alex Wilson contested in the recent by-election. I have looked out my “crib sheet” for that pitch, and will attach it to the e-mail I will send to the party with this missive. Once the general public finally come to understand what has been going on in environmental policy over 30 years and more, and how badly they have been misled, I think that David Bull’s “seismic political movement” can really get some traction. This has the potential to be a huge vote-winner; after all, more than 70% of the UK electorate are car drivers, and face severe restriction or even complete loss of their personal mobility due to the establishment’s “green industrial revolution” policies.

One lesson I took away from the party conference is that, in that audience, many people were extremely clued-up about the issues being discussed. This is a very strong asset for any organization, and I think the party should be making as much use of it as it can. As to my own contribution, I will be happy to help in whatever ways make the best use of my particular knowledge and talents. As a hard-core libertarian, I am always liable to be on the radical wing of the party. But in the current state of things, if the Reform Party can’t or won’t rescue our freedoms from out of the maw of the establishment and the political class, I can’t see anyone else who can. Our only option then would be along the lines of gilets jaunes. At 68, I really don’t want to have to go there.


  1. This is a note for Mr Webb. David, I am sick and tired of your drive-by accusations of “cultural Marxism” against Duncan Whitmore and myself, your totally unjustified insult against Hugo Miller on my earlier thread, and your propensity to give a “one-star vote” to articles you disagree with. You should take note of the words of Claire Fox, which I quoted in my report. Libertarians should not be indulging in cancel culture at all; and most of all, not against those who, however much you may disagree with some of their ideas, are your fellow fighters in the intellectual battle for liberty. Please try to be polite in future.

    • Neil Lock, you deserve zero stars. It is not name-calling to state that you have swallowed the Cultural Marxist package devised by the Frankfurt School – which shifted the Marxist attention from the working class to issues such as racism, sexism etc. You seem to want to take up the Cultural Marxist package and just add “cut a penny off tax” on top. This is ludicrous. The Reform Party appears to support only wonkish causes, but is steering clear of immigration. With only 58% of live births in England and Wales now classed by the ONS as “white British”, there is no time to lose. And yet Richard Tice seems to believe that continual chain migration and family reunion should continue for forever and a day.

      • If that’s what the Reform Party are up to then the None Of The Above Party will be receiving my support again at whatever and whenever is the next election. I can’t say I’m surprised, though.

  2. “…including candidate Ahmad Malik, who coincidentally was the Brexit party candidate for the same seat…”

    I suppose a candidate with a British name would be boring. Understandable. Who wants to vote for a Harold Smith or Fred Jones or John Walker, when you can vote for someone exotic and mysterious like Ahmad Malik?

    • He’s neither exotic nor mysterious, Tom. He’s a surgeon, specializing in treating feet and ankles. He seems to have a pretty good reputation in his profession, too.

      • I’m sure he is an absolutely marvellous chap, but I’m also not sure if the native British people really did ever give informed consent to being governed by Ahmad Maliks and Sajid Javids and Priti Patels and Mohammed Husseins. I also don’t agree with you when you say it doesn’t matter. I think it matters quite a bit. That is not to say I have anything against the aforementioned persons as individuals, only that I wish they could have applied their talents in the homeland of their culture – presumably, different parts of the Indian subcontinent. Perhaps the odd one or two Ahmad Maliks and Priti Patels every now and then isn’t such a bad thing as isolated cases, but there do seem to be rather a lot of them, coupled with the casual attitude of “We are all the same” (what I call the ‘WAATS mantra’).

        I’m also a bit dubious about this idea that Ahmad Maliks and Priti Patels should go round representing me. I am a northern European from the British Isles. My surname indicates this. If you are a Malik or Patel, or indeed a Javid or Hussein, then good luck to you, but you are automatically disqualified from representing me, and on that basis alone, I won’t vote for such a person, or anybody else who adopts the WAATS mantra. That rules out Reform UK, who seems to want more Maliks and Patels and Javids and Husseins, as long as they “come here legally” and “pay their way” and “contribute”, presumably pay their TV licence and put spare change in poor boxes. And if they are extra special goody-goody and well-behaved, they may receive permission to represent us in one of our pretend, plastic halls of democracy.

        No. Britain is a northern European country. Our core population are the descendants of Vikings, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, and ancient Britons. We are not a south Asian country, nor for that matter an African country or a Middle Eastern country. We are not all the same. There are differences among humanity, and there is a human instinct to separate, compete and tribalise (what I call the ‘tribal imperative’), which is connected to Darwinian evolution and is found in the rest of the animal kingdom as well. Which is why we have borders.

        I don’t share David Webb’s approach of attacking you. We have always been pleasant and constructive with each other on here, and I certainly will acknowledge that you are of a greater intellect than I (and greater patience too). However, that does not mean you are right. Clever people, like you, can and often are shown to be quite wrong about things. The problem with your ideas is that they run contrary to human nature and human instincts, which means that the only way to implement them is using authoritarian measures in which an artificial social reality is created and has to be sustained through force.

        • Tom, I don’t think the British people gave their informed consent to being governed by Guillaume de Normandie or George duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, either.

          As to people of other races “representing” you, well, you don’t have to vote for them. Myself, I’d say that no politician of any of the mainstream parties can possibly “represent” me, because they are all dishonest and I am not. Ahmad Malik, on the other hand, came over to me as an honest person of great skill at his trade; he could have been a far better “representative” for me than, say, Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.

          I think Sean Gabb put the homogeneity issue well in a comment on one of my earlier threads: “There are several positions you can take as a libertarian on the present state of affairs:

          Liberty can only exist in a reasonably homogeneous nation
          Liberty can exist very well in a world without borders or national loyalties
          There is no prospect of restoring the homogeneity that existed before 1960, and we have no choice but to try some other approach.”

          Your position, Tom, is the first of these. Mine is the second. What I seek is a way of doing things in which each individual can choose who they want to have around them. If you want the company only of people of white Anglo-Saxon descent, you can choose just that kind of company. This is why I take great pains to exclude any blanket ban on discrimination from my ethical philosophy. The problem is, of course, that such a way of doing things is not compatible with the one-size-fits-all, top-down, statist political system of today. It is that system which, to quote your words, uses “authoritarian measures in which an artificial social reality is created and has to be sustained through force.” It is that system which is responsible for all the bad government under which we suffer today, and which I (and, I hope, you too) oppose with all my moral strength.

          • [quote]”Tom, I don’t think the British people gave their informed consent to being governed by Guillaume de Normandie or George duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, either.”[unquote]

            Exactly, thanks for making my point for me. But I don’t believe societies can work entirely along the lines you envisage. I think your ideas about society are naive, by which I mean not that you are naive, but that your ideas don’t take account of all human factors.

            You think society can be run entirely on the basis of consent. The problem with this is human nature: specifically that, left to their own devices, most people will pursue their own selfish ends at the expense of everybody else, sometimes even harming themselves in the long run. An example is mass immigration, which allows businesses to maximise profits by reducing labour costs and opportunities for labour solidarity and industrial resistance. This benefits business owners and their shareholders, and to an extent also benefits consumers by lowering prices and improving the responsiveness and convenience of services; but it harms society, and ultimately harms the business owners, shareholders and consumers themselves, not in their capacity as business owners, shareholders and consumers, but as ordinary citizens.

            [quote]”As to people of other races “representing” you, well, you don’t have to vote for them. Myself, I’d say that no politician of any of the mainstream parties can possibly “represent” me, because they are all dishonest and I am not. Ahmad Malik, on the other hand, came over to me as an honest person of great skill at his trade; he could have been a far better “representative” for me than, say, Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.”[/quote]

            I believe the principle that people should be represented by those of their own kind is long-standing in political science/philosophy. It is not accepted by all, but it is not an exotic idea. It makes intuitive sense, and a number of the great Classical philosophers espoused it.

            [/quote]I think Sean Gabb put the homogeneity issue well in a comment on one of my earlier threads: “There are several positions you can take as a libertarian on the present state of affairs:

            Liberty can only exist in a reasonably homogeneous nation
            Liberty can exist very well in a world without borders or national loyalties
            There is no prospect of restoring the homogeneity that existed before 1960, and we have no choice but to try some other approach.”[/quote]

            A world without borders or national loyalties is a super-abstraction. You are forgetting where borders and national loyalties come from and seem to think that such things can be treated as archaic and vestigial. In your mind, we can abolish national borders but keep private property boundaries; we can abolish national loyalties but keep families, or those who want to form families can. You seem not to grasp that one is an extension of the other. The Angles, Saxons and Vikings who came here had national loyalties – at least, to a tribe, and they established borders. Their national loyalties arose from ancient kin relationships. It wasn’t just a random thing. One arose organically out of the other.

            Moreover, forming borders, nations, tribes and families all seem like universal activities. Can you offer me an example of a human society that was sustained for an appreciable length of time without these things? Or even an example from the animal kingdom?

            [quote]What I seek is a way of doing things in which each individual can choose who they want to have around them.[/quote]

            That’s impossible. The real world doesn’t work that way and can’t. You think that this Ahmad Malik fellow is a jolly spiffing chap, and I’m sure he is, but what if you fall out with him? What if you find out that the whispered rumours going round about him are true and he really does secretly collect stamps and even has a model railway hidden in his attic? What if you just decide you don’t like him anymore?

            One of the reasons for families is to bind people together, even if they don’t like each other or don’t have the same views or interests about various minor things. I may hate my brother and want to kill my father, but ultimately I must reflect on the simple fact that he is my brother and he is my father and blood runs thicker than water. If you try to build the same social structure analogously with people who have no genetic bond to each other at all, I’m not sure that would work as well because it then relies on us sharing abstract ideas and values and ignoring things we dislike about each other, and we must hope that the co-incidence of values is strong enough to overcome the negative points. I believe this, in turn, lends itself to a more materialistic society, because in the end we are only going to co-operate with each other if it is of mutual benefit. It also means we have to be ultra-polite with each other and mind our Ps and Qs. It basically turns us all into shopkeepers who have to like and welcome everybody and be indiscriminating and ‘tolerant’ and understanding of differences.

            Personally, I dislike that idea and I would also question its sustainability. You can’t like everybody indiscriminately and be tolerant of all-comers. Hate or disdain or dislike of the Other is a natural human drive and has to be embraced and acknowledged in a system if it is to be sustained and functional. I much prefer the idea that there is a certain thing that you inherit or not and is beyond price. You can’t buy it. Even if you are a millionaire many times over and a genius, if you are born as an Indian or Pakistani or Kenyan, then you will never be British. This doesn’t make you a lesser person, rather it calls on you to see value in what you are.

            • Tom, the way I see it, there are several different kinds of bonds that can hold groups of people together.

              Firstly, as you say, there are blood ties. The “nuclear family” is by far the strongest of these. There is also a love, which many people feel, for the land and people of their particular area. That is the love which I refer to as patriotism, and George Orwell described as: “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.” Myself, if I am to be a patriot, I will be a Wessex patriot, since Wessex is my part of the world.

              Secondly, there are the voluntary associations with others, which people make for mutual benefit. In olden days, people organized themselves into hunting-bands and then into settled tribes; the main benefit being the division of labour. They were initially blood-tie based, but the bigger they got, the less close the blood ties became. Today, we can also form societies of many other kinds and for many kinds of purposes. These purposes can range, for example, from the performance of a common hobby, to a business enterprise, to a society of people who share a similar set of values – such as libertarian ideas. Some such societies may have an element of blood ties; but the great majority do not. One member of my brass band, for example, is German; but his different nationality doesn’t make him any less a part of our band.

              Thirdly, there are ties of culture, such as shared language, or history, or religion, or political ideas of how a “society” should best be organized. These, again, can have a blood-tie element, but often do not. People who share a language or a religion do not always share an ancestry or a skin colour. At the opposite extreme, there may be rabid socialists, fascists, Marxists, old school Tories or greenies who have pink skins and speak English, but with whom I (for one) can feel no cultural tie whatsoever.

              Fourthly, there is the “nation.” Nationalism, at its root, is an attachment to a political state. I find it unfortunate that far too many people seem to think of the nation as the primary force that binds people together; and far too many, also, seem to equate it with a group of people of a particular racial make-up.

              For myself, I see nations, and their politics, as huge divisive forces. And I feel far less of a tug of blood ties than many other people seem to. For me, there is only thing which can bind, and can continue to bind, people together into a coherent, cohesive society; and that is shared values and interests. In the context of politics, my own values, succinctly put, are the values of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution; and it is with those who share those values that I feel most “at home,” regardless of skin colour, geographical origin, received religion or any other such trait.

              I realize that some – including you – may disagree with me on this. As is my wont, I take on matters of such disagreement a view of “live and let live.” I am happy to let you live your life according to your views, as long as you don’t try to foist or to force them on me. And I want to live in a set-up which maximizes the power of “live and let live,” and allows people of different tastes, skin colours, religions and so on to live in as much harmony as possible.

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